Town of
 Town Historian 

Danby Town Hall

Mary Ann Barr

Progress is being made!  Soon more different information will be posted on this page.  Check back to see what has been added or changed.


One change to note is the picture being featured which is Danby Town Hall in the late 19th cen. or early 20th cen.. Can you find all the changes that have occured in the scene? 


Though the Historian's annual report is kind of dry reading it might have some information of interest so it will be posted here.  This is the report for 2019.  A PDF of the report is below.


Town of Danby Historian Report for 2019     By Mary Ann Barr – Town Historian

Meetings. As Town Historian I have attended all the Municipal Historians of Tompkins County (MHTC) meetings.  They meet once a month with the exception of summer months and holidays.  I was asked to be note taker and have done the MHTC minutes all this year as well as part of last year.



The Danby Community Council promotes cultural events and I met with them early in the year to learn more about their activities and see where Historian activities and DCC activities might coordinate.


Requests. I have received four or five requests via e-mail throughout the year for information on genealogy, cemetery locations and history of one or two houses in town.

Writing/outreach. The Danby Area News – our local town newsletter comes out once a month and an article by me appeared in six issues.  Besides the articles a “Help Wanted” ad ran in which I asked for and assistant or deputy town historian.  One result of that ad was response from two teenagers who signed up to help organize the Historian files and participate in any other way they can.  Together we accomplished the filing of all newspaper clippings that have accumulated over the years.

Accomplishments. This year saw the installation of a permanent display of a clock acquisitioned a couple of years ago.  The clock was restored then a custom cabinet built and hung, with the clock safely inside, in the main meeting room in Town Hall.

This year a couple of other items were donated and accessioned including a plow that is either a hand, or a horse drawn plow that was found on a Danby property.

Since I am an artist it was decided I should document all the big barns in Danby with drawn “portraits” of each (graphite on paper).  This was begun in the fall and so far five drawings have been completed.  Each drawing is 7”x10” with the idea of making a portfolio of all the drawings when completed.

There is a designated display case and bulletin board exclusively for Town Historian’s use in the main meeting room of Town Hall that was completed at the beginning of this year.  I change out the displays three or four time a year and post monthly information on the bulletin board.

Going forward.  It is my aim to curate and display Danby artifacts in an established space for the purpose as well as establish a permanent space for proper storage and archiving of Danby’s history.  (So far the space is about the same as the past couple of years in which I have used shared space in one of Town Hall offices.)  I also need to have a deputy/assistant Town Historian as mentioned earlier.

Time. My time spent in Town Historian endeavors averages two to three hours a week or a total of about 130 hours for the year though I do not keep a time sheet.  I just do what I can when I can.

Respectfully submitted,  Mary Ann Barr




Brief Danby History


Danby is a rural town spread out among the highlands south of Cayuga Lake. The drainage divide between waters flowing north to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and waters flowing south to Chesapeake Bay passes through Danby. Buttermilk Creek runs north through the center of the town on its way to the gorge and falls in Buttermilk Falls State Park. Cayuga Inlet runs north through the western part of the town on its way to Cayuga Lake.


Throughout its history Danby has been chiefly agricultural. The northern area of the town was first settled in 1795 by two families from Kingston, NY, named Yaple and Dumond who had lost their claim to land in Ithaca. Two years later, Dr. Lewis Beers from Connecticut formed another settlement in South Danby. In 1811 Prince de Plessis, an African American who gained his freedom by Revolutionary War service, settled here with his wife, Lement, and four grown children. Danby was originally part of the Watkins and Flint land purchase and incorporated as a town by an act of the New York State Legislature on February 22, 1811. Danby was in Tioga County until 1822 when it was transferred to Tompkins County. The Ithaca-Owego Turnpike was a toll road completed in 1810 created an important transportation link between Cayuga Lake and the Susquehanna River, opened the region to commerce. It became a state highway in 1841 and remains so today as Route 96B.


During the early 20th century, Danby developed a significant Finnish population as Finnish people left the lumber and mining camps of Michigan and Minnesota. Today the town has approximately 3,500 people spread across 53 square miles and clustered in two hamlet communities- Danby and West Danby.


This five page account of Danby's history was originally published in the Danby Area News in 2010-2011. Much of the information in these articles was drawn from a 1998 report by Historic Ithaca and the website

This 61 page document was published by the DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County in 1968. From the preface: "DeWitt Historical Society has been happy to co-operate with the author in producing a modest volume that will go a long way towards enabling the current residents of the town to develop their interest in community history".


This book was digitized in 2009 by the Tompkins County Public Library, with the permission of the History Center in Tompkins County.